Becoming Nicole: The Transformation of an American Family by Amy Ellis Nutt ~ Book Review & Discussion Guide

Pages:  279

Published:  October 20, 2015

Awards:  Stonewall Honor Book for Non-Fiction (2016);  One of New York Times 100 Notable books of 2015;  One of Amazon’s 2015 Best books of the Year: Top 100

Format:  E-book

 

 

I consider myself quite open to LGBT people and the movement for greater recognition and consideration, especially in terms of legal rights.  However, I also went to school at a time when transgender individuals were not coming out as such.  So, in a way, I was uninformed on much of the difficulties faced by transgender individuals and this book changed that for me.  It really opened my eyes to what it means to be transgender.  Being transgender in today’s society is easier than it’s ever been, but that is not saying much.  There are so many inherent biases built into our culture, that it takes a very loving, supportive family, school and community to create a safe environment for transgender children.

This biography does an amazing job of giving an unbiased straightforward approach to the life and struggles of the Maines’ who adopted identical twin boys at birth.  It was clear very early on that one of the twins, Wyatt, was identifying as a girl.  He wore tutus and high heels, played with barbies, and hated his penis.   Wayne and Kelly Maines were very loving parents who did everything they could to honor who their child really was. It took Wayne, an avid hunter and air force veteran, longer to come around to the idea that Wyatt was really a girl, but once he did, he fully embraced it. He became a huge supporter of his daughter and advocate of trangender rights in the public.

Amy Ellis Nutt, a health and science writer at the Washington Post, skillfully offers research, statistics and other information within this biography that provides insight into the history, politics, biology and sociology regarding this complex subject.

The Maines family found tremendous support in some places.  However, Nicole also had to endure the bullying and stalking behavior of a peer that led to her being banned from the girls’ bathroom in grade school.  The Maines family filed a lawsuit which they eventually won in the Maine Supreme Court against the school system in Orono bringing transgender rights movement even further.  This became the first lawsuit granting transgenders the legal right to use the bathroom of their perceived gender, rather than their biological gender.  Maine became the second state (behind California) to have such a law in place.

This is a book that might your perspective. It is a very timely with all the recent legal changes regarding transgender rights.  This book demonstrates the strength an courage of an amazing girl who had an incredible family to support her and together they helped to change the law.  I would recommend this to anyone interested in the subject.  I really think it is an important book for everyone to read, in order to grasp and understand transgenderism better from a historical, biological and most importantly personal point of view. 

 

 

 

Nicole and Jonas Maines

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nicole Maines

 

 

 

The Maines Family

 

 

 

Discussion Questions:

  1.  Discuss Wayne and Kelly’s different approaches to Wyatt’s gender dysphoria.  How does this change with time?
  2. Discuss Jonas’ role in the Maines family.  How does this affect him?
  3. Was your viewpoint regarding transgenders changed or affected by this book?  How?
  4. How do you feel about transgenders transitioning prior to puberty?  Does this seem young to make such a decision or crucial to prevent undergoing puberty and developing as the wrong gender?
  5. What do you forsee as the future for transgenders?
  6. Discuss the bullying that Nicole faced from Jacob?  Why did bullying in this case occur?  Discuss the groups that speak out against transgenders and the reasons they do so.

 

Boston Globe article that made Nicole’s transgender life public in 2011

NPR’s StoryCorp Piece on Nicole Maines

New York Times Review by Jennifer Senior

Review in New York Times by Lisa Miller

The Temporary Bride by Jennifer Klinec ~ Book Review & Discussion Guide

Pages:  211

Published:  September 4, 2014 (in the UK)

Expected Publishing date in USA:  February 2017

Format: Softcover book

 

 

 

This is an interesting little memoir about a young woman who grew up in Ontario  and had happy memories of her mother cooking her native food from Yugoslavia.   Her mother stopped cooking elaborate meals when their business took off, but Jen forever afterwards sought out interesting foods and cultural traditions surrounding them.  As her parents were mostly absent after Jen’s early years, she developed independence young and found opportunities to study abroad both for high school and college.  On her breaks, she would visit the most obscure places she could find.  In her twenties, she had landed herself in a high paying corporate job, however, there was little love for it.  She abandoned this to begin  teaching cooking classes out of her tiny flat in London.

In her thirties, she goes on a largely unplanned trip to Iran, hoping to learn more of the culture and Middle Eastern cooking traditions.  Immediately, Vahid, an energetic Iranian man, 6 years younger than she, sparks up conversation with her and invites her to his mother’s kitchen.  Initially she is put off by him, however with time,  a love interest develops.  Through this relationship, a glimpse into the cultural rules regarding relationships is thoroughly explored in this land.   Their relationship must remain a secret from his family and Iranians at large, until Vahid has the idea of a “temporary marriage.”  They go to great lengths to get a Mullah to grant them this, so that they may be allowed to be together and have something to show the police with whom they’ve had many confrontations.  Even once they’ve gone public with their relationship, it is not accepted among Vahid’s family and their being seen together causes great consternation in Vahid’s home town of Yazd.

The book quickly shifts from a memoir about a love for food to a memoir about a love for a boy.  It is a book about “yaaftan,” finding something beautiful in a place where it is least expected or where you had to struggle.  It is about “payvand zadan” the act of locking two things to each other to keep them both safe, an old fashioned word for marriage.

 

A map of Iran with the areas circled that were visited: Yazd, Esfahan, and Tehran.

 

 

 

 

Jennifer Klinec, the author

Photo taken from the Guardian

 

Discussion Questions:

  1.  Discuss the importance of the hijab and manners of dressing in Iran.
  2. Discuss the expectations regarding marriage in Iran.
  3. Discuss Vahid’s how personality changes amongst different people.  Why does he show different sides of himself in different scenarios?
  4. What is your opinion of sigheh marriages or temporary marriages?  Do you think such a marriage contract could work in Western countries?   How is this at odds with the Islamic culture in Iran?
  5. Why are Vahid’s parents vehemently opposed to the idea of a relationship between Vahid and Jennifer?
  6. Jennifer and Vahid enter a Noor Mosque where people go to mourn.  Discuss this tradition of public outpouring of emotion in a society that is so private.

Review from the Guardian

Jennifer Klinec’s website

Recipes for the dishes mentioned in this novel as posted on Jennifer Klinec’s website

I Survived the Destruction of Pompeii, AD 79 by Lauren Tarshis ~ Book Review

 

20578944Pages:  112

Published:  August 26, 2014

 

 

 

 

 

I read this with my 8 year old son and thought it was a great mix of interest and learning.  The story takes place in Pompeii leading up to the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in the year 79 A.D.  The reader learns about Roman times, a period of great learning and discovery.  It was also a period where slavery was commonplace and entertainment was via watching gladiator fights, in which slaves were pitted against each other.  The people believed in the Greek Gods which are also part of the story.  The book does an excellent job of incorporating many facets of history into this novel without it seeming too intrusive.

I, myself, thoroughly enjoyed this tale and felt like it was a great tool for educating children about history.  If I hadn’t been reading with my son, I’m sure he would have skipped the afterward which talks about Mount Vesuvius, the Roman times, and further history of the destruction of Pompeii and the eventual discovery of a buried city.  I thought this was a great addition and was glad it was there for additional talking points.  I would recommend this for 6-10 year olds.  This was the first “I Survived” book that we have read together, but we will definitely be reading more! images-2

Lauren Tarshis’ website with links to comprehension check, novel activities and novel quiz

 

 

18 of the Most Popular Books of 2016 With Links to Book Club Questions

  1.  When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi – added by 388,807 people on Goodreads.   This book is a memoir of a neurosurgeon who is faced with a diagnosis of terminal lung cancer at the age of 39.   He has grappled with the meaning of life since high school and his search for life’s essence led him to a career in neurosurgery.  Having spent so much time reflecting on life’s meaning, makes his memoir especially poignant.  That combined with his medical background and longtime interest in writing creates the right conditions for a well versed and thoughtful memoir on death and dying.25614898
  2. The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead – added by 309,380 people on Goodreads. This is a novel about slavery and the underground railroad, which in this novel, becomes a virtual railroad.
  3. Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris – added by 260,631 people on Goodreads.    Behind Closed Doors is a domestic abuse thriller.  Jack and Grace are the perfect couple to all outside appearances, however what lurks behind closed doors is exactly the opposite.  Grace must carefully calculate her moves if she wants to escape and save her sister from her husband’s brutality.
  4. The Girls by Emma Cline – added by 257,639 people on Goodreads.  This novel is Emma Cline’s re-imagining of Charles Manson’s ranch.  It is much less focused on Charles Manson and more so on “the girls” who are drawn to it.   It imagines the allure of the ranch to these girls, their connections to each other and to the outside world.  It is told from the viewpoint of a woman who had been a young girl at the ranch, at a point in time when this grown adult encounters another “girl” who could have just as easily been pulled into the ranch’s enticements.
  5. Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance – added by 241,055 people on goodreads.  This is a memoir from a young man who grew up living between Kentucky and Ohio in the hillbilly culture.  A few things steered his life away from the direction he was headed.  He ended up going on to Ohio State for college and to Yale Law School.  He writes about his experience growing up as a hillbilly as well as the hillbilly culture at large.  There is a political bent to the way he thinks and this book has been touted as one of the best books to read to understand Trump’s presidential success.
  6. All The Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood – added by 210,338 people.  This novel is about a young girl growing up neglected and surrounded by debauchery.  It is about an unlikely ally and friend in a dismal situation.  It is about a romance that develops despite a large age gap.
  7. Commonwealth by Ann Patchett – added by 199,048 people on Goodreads.  This novel shows how a seemingly enchanted moment in time completely disrupts two families resulting in divorce and remarriage, leading to neglect, anger, and distance.  It is beautifully written, each chapter effectively it’s own short story.
  8. A Gentleman In Moscow by Amor Towles – added by 168,316 people on Goodreads.  An aristocrat  is found guilty of writing a poem inciting resistance to Bolshevism.  He is placed under house arrest in the Hotel Metrol in Moscow over a period of 30 years as the world outside undergoes tremendous change.
  9. Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi – added by 165,367 people on Goodreads. This is an epic novel spanning hundreds of years, beginning in Africa and following two sides of a family as one side is sold into slavery and brought to America and the other side remains in Africa. It is a story of race, roots, and remembrance.
  10. My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout – added by 151,688 people on Goodreads.  This novel is a gorgeous rendering of a dysfunctional family told through conversations between a mother and daughter while the daughter is hospitalized for appendicitis.  What goes unsaid is just as important as what is said. It is also a study on writing and what makes good writing.
  11.  I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh – added by 141,494  people on Goodreads.  This was a murder mystery thriller told in alternating perspectives that keeps you on your toes and does not disappoint with its twists and turns.
  12. Born a Crime by Trevor Noah added by 135,923 people on Goodreads. An amazing collection of autobiographical essays about Trevor Noah, a boy born to a black mother and a Swiss/German father under apartheid in South Africa. The essays are incredible, shedding much light on life in South Africa during and after apartheid. There is so much heart, courage, strength, humor and tremendous good fortune contained within these essays.
  13. Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld -added by 127,988 people on Goodreads.  This novel is a modern day retelling of Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice,” set in Cincinnati.  It is just as delicious and addictive as the original.25852870
  14. Swing Time by Zadie Smith – added by 82,683 people on Goodreads.  This novel is about the childhood friendship and all of it’s complexities between two “brown girls” growing up in the public housing estates in northern London.  This novel follows the girls into adulthood, exploring race, culture and gender and asks fundamental questions about identity.
  15. The Summer Before the War by Helen Simonson– added by 73,033 people.  This novel, set in the idyllic countryside of Sussex, is a comedy of manners.  It occurs in the summer before World War 1, exploring politics, manners, and gender roles of this era.
  16. Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler – added by 68,800 people  on Goodreads.   Sweetbitter is a fictional novel based on Stephanie Danler’s many years of experience waiting tables in New York City following graduation from Kenyon College.  It is meant to provide insight into the secret lives of those who work in restaurants, their hours, habits, and addictions.  26192646
  17. Everyone Brave is Forgiven by Chris Cleave – added by 62,226 people.  This World War II historical fiction novel takes place primarily in London.  It follows the lives of 4 main characters, their love interests, and their roles in the war.  Everyone is affected by the war, their courage and bravery tested.25814512
  18. Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson – added by 58,843 people on Goodreads.  August is returning home to visit her ailing father, when she spots an old friend through the window.  Memories of her childhood growing up in Brooklyn come flooding back.  The memories have a dreamlike quality to them.  There is the remembrance of not realizing her mother had died for years afterwards, always expecting her to return.  There are descriptions of a tight group of girlfriends who had once felt powerful together that are now no longer in touch.  

**These rankings were updated on 9/17/2017 and are based upon how many people have added these books to their goodreads collection of books.  They will change as time goes on and I will update accordingly.

Commonwealth by Ann Patchett ~ Book Review & Discussion Guide

28214365Pages:  336

Published:  September 13, 2016

Format:  E-book

 

 

 

 

 

The opening scene is set up like artwork. You understand the background of the characters, the pace of their movements, the absurdity of their choices. You feel the heat of the summer day, understand the lives that the characters lead and the small town that they live in. You feel the music, the alcohol, the excitement, the dramatic turn of events that awaits. You feel some characters sliding out of focus while others are becoming more intensely illuminated even electrified. It’s as if a magic spell has been cast over the christening party with the the arrival of the handsome uninvited DA, his enormous bottle of liquor and love of oranges. The tension and magic builds feverishly until the kiss between Bert Cousins and Fix Keating’s beautiful wife, Beverly.

“Commonwealth” starts out as a gorgeously written story about two families disrupted so casually, so brutally by this kiss at a christening party.  The writing is so tight, so vivid, and the storyline is riveting.  It follows the lives of the children and the parents in the aftermath of divorce.  Each chapter is it’s own short story, jumping in space and time from the last. There are characters to love, to pity, to sympathize with, to worry about, to mourn for.   The characters are all so human and the essence of humanity is explored through each of them.

The chapters pertaining to the children growing up together, especially the ones taking place during the summer when all six children are together are astonishing.  They are so well written and seem to contain so much truth.  The amount of abandonment experienced by these children and hatred for their parents is astounding.  The children were on their own to do as they pleased and Albie, the youngest, was the only thing holding them back.  So, what did they do?  They drugged him.

Interestingly, this book is semi-autobiographical with many parallels to Ann Patchett’s life.  She grew up in a blended Catholic family.  Her father was a policeman.  Then, there is a chapter about how Franny becomes Leo Posen’s muse.  This writer, who is Franny’s lover, basically manipulates her life story into a novel, entitled Commonwealth, which is entirely her life and at the same time, not at all her life.

This story asks so many existential questions.  How important is a moment in time?  What would have happened if that one day had gone differently?  Would the outcomes have been similar?   What is important in the end?  How does family shape us?

As much as I adored the character development and the first three quarters of the novel, I must admit that some of the magic of it had departed by the end, for me.  The characters were dispersed geographically and emotionally.  As much as Ann Patchett gave me exactly what I wanted in the end, which was an understanding of all the mysteries and a knowing of how each character of these two families fared in life, this part was far less interesting to me.  Still, Ann Patchett is a brilliant, gifted writer and I was awed and amazed for at least the first three quarters of this book.  images-2

family-tree

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Discussion Questions:

  1.   Fix tells the story of Loomis, how he died at age 29.  Which is better: to die young and healthy or old and sick?  How do he and Franny each feel about this question?
  2. Were there any characters you truly disliked?  Who and why?
  3. Why do you think that certain moments or parties are more susceptible to life-changing events or do you?  For instance at the Christening party, the lives of the Cousins’ and the Keatings’ were forever changed.  Additionally, the priest and Bonnie also came together at the Christening party.
  4. Did you realize the manner of Calvin’s death immediately or did you discover it later?  What clues were there?
  5. Discuss how each child handled and was affected by the divorce and resulting neglect.  Were there any characters that you felt were unaffected by it?
  6. Franny, the law school drop out, who loves reading, fall for Leo Posen, the acclaimed novelist.  Why do you think she is willing to share her story with him?  Is this therapeutic for her?  Is there guilt associated with it?
  7. Why is there such a cover-up associated with Cal’s death among the children?  Why is this necessary?
  8. How does Cal’s death eventually destroy the marriage of Beverly and Bert?
  9. Who are the children most loyal to in adulthood?  Who do they confide in?
  10. What do you make of Holly’s decision to live in Switzerland and meditate?  Is this therapeutic, escapist..?
  11. How are Fix Keating and Teresa Cousins affected by the divorce?  What changes does the divorce bring about in them?
  12. What was your favorite chapter (or short story) and why?
  13. Discuss the title and it’s meaning in the context of this novel.

 

Ann Patchett’s website

Jennifer Senior’s Review Published in the New York Times

Curtis Sittenfeld’s Review Published in the New York Times

Lit Lovers Discussion Questions

Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho ~ Book Review & Discussion Guide

 

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Pages:  371

Published:  September 1, 2015

Awards:  Locus Award Nominee for Best First Novel

Format: Audiobook

 

 

 

This magical, fantastical, witty comedy of manners meets magical fairyland is so fun to read.  There is much foreshadowing to provide plenty of excitement and anticipation for the sequel which has not yet been published.  For all it’s playfulness, there is also an underlining seriousness to this novel.  This has to do with the politics of Britain and the treatment of women and people of color.  In fairyland, race does not matter, it is not even noticed.  Likewise, in fairyland, women are equally adept and capable of practicing magic as men are.  This is in stark contrast to England.  Politics and society are portrayed as a comedy of manners in Britain where people are tripping over themselves to maintain decorum despite the pervading racism and sexism.

The story is set in 19th century England.   Upon the death of his guardian and mentor, Zacharias Wythe becomes the “sorcerer royal” more out of obligation, than desire.   Given that he is a freed slave, a black man, there is much outcry against him.  There is an underground movement afoot to unseat him, led by the unscrupulous and dishonest Geoffrey Midsomer.    This all comes at a time when there is a drain on the magic in England, there are political entanglements with magicians from foreign lands, and war is ensuing with France.

Zacharias is asked to visit a school for gentle witches where the main objective is to banish or hide their magical abilities.  Zacharias immediately notices the magical talents of Prunella Gentleman, who was orphaned and left in the care of Mrs. Daubney at a young age.    Prunella has fallen out of favor with Mrs. Daubney, the headmistress of the school and Prunella’s guardian since her father’s death.  She asks Prunella to move to the servant’s quarters, but instead Prunella accompanies Zacharias back to London and begins to study thaurmatorgy with him.  Prunella has recently discovered herself in possession of a singing orb and seven familiar’s eggs.  As she begins to grow her familiars while looking for a husband, her powers grow, and a love interest develops between Zacharias and Prunella.   Prunella is certainly a “Cinderella” character, but one with much bravery, talent and ambition.  It is she who becomes the true star, the heroine of the novel, able to take the reins of her position, to succeed as the ultimate “Sorceress Royal.”

This is, of course, a very simplified and scaled back version of the novel.  There are many subplots within the main plot.  The novel is chock full of an interesting array of characters:  nosy society ladies, seedy politicians, faeries, vampiresses, curious familiars, mermaids, dragons, and much more!

This novel is craftily written, full of surprises and larger than life characters.  It is at once serious and whimsical.  It delights and  exceeds expectations.  I highly recommend this novel to anyone who enjoys fantasy fiction!! images-2

Discussion Questions:

  1.  What similarities do Prunella Gentleman and Zacharias Wythe share?
  2. Is magic seen as good or evil?  How does this differ depending upon the practitioner of magic?
  3. Discuss race and gender in the British society of this novel.  Does the author construe them as they were in 19th century Britain or modern day?   Is there a depiction of white supremacy and institutionalized oppression?  How so?
  4. How is Prunella like a Cinderella story?
  5. Discuss Mak Genggang’s role.
  6. How does Zacharias respond to Sir Stephen’s advice?  How does this differ from when Sir Stephen was alive?
  7. Discuss Prunella’s plans for the future of England.  What specific changes does she have in mind?
  8. How does Zacharias sacrifice himself for Sir Stephen?  How ultimately is the repaired?
  9. What is the value and cost of having a familiar?
  10. Zachary’s does not confront Sir Stephen about his parents until the end.  Please discuss.
  11. Discuss the parallel between Sir Stephen wanting to train a black sorcerer and Zacharias championing the rights of female magicians, or magiciennes.

Review by Marina Berlin published in “Strange Horizons”

Review published on “Galleywampus” blog

Review by Amal El-Mohtar published by NPR

Zen Cho’s website

Girl Over Paris #1 (Cirque American #1) by Gwenda Bond ~ Comic Review

29907566

 

Published:  July 5, 2016

 

 

 

 

 

Comic books are not usually on my “to-read” shelf, but I picked this one up to read as part of Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge.   That being said, it was fun to sit on the couch and read this while my son was reading one of his “Big Nate” graphic novels.  We promised to trade afterwards.

Not being a comic book connoisseur, it is a bit difficult to discuss this book.  However, as a newbie, I will give it a try.  Thematically this comic is aimed at female teenagers, however it would not be disturbing in any way for a younger reader (8+).  The heroine in this comic is a tight rope walker, who has an enemy who is yet to be discovered.  This first comic in the series sets the stage, as she travels to Paris by plane with her agent, boyfriend and boyfriend’s sister.  The illustrations are great.  It was fun to read.  I do think it would be loved by teenage girls, especially those who have been brought up on comics and graphic novels.  There is a hook here, and even though comics are not in my usual repertoire, I may continue this series.  3-stars

The Tempest by William Shakespeare ~ Book Review

 

12985

 

Pages: 211

First Published: 1611

Format: E-book

 

 

 

 

As part of the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge, I needed to read a play and what better play to read than The Tempest having recently read and adored Margaret Atwood’s retelling in Hag-Seed.  I have an even greater appreciation of Hag-Seed having read the original again.  It had been more than twenty years since I’ve read Shakespeare.  I found it simultaneously difficult to navigate the Old English and thematically extremely relevant to modern day.  There is so much complexity within this brief play, that it is no wonder that people study Shakespeare to such lengths!

This play takes place on an Island where the magician, Prospero, and his daughter Miranda have been living the last 12 years, since Prospero’s exile from his position as Duke of Milan.  The only other person on the Island during this time is Calaban, son of the evil witch, Sycorax, who used to live there as well.  Ariel is a fairy who does the bidding of Prospero.  Calaban is also enslaved to Prospero, having attempted to rape Miranda.  Prospero creates a tempest  which bring his enemies by shipwreck to his Island.  He scatters them across the Island such that Ferdinand the King’s son is separated from all others and will encounter Miranda, both falling in love with each other under Ariel’s spell.  Gonzalo, Alonso, Antonio, and Sebastian are landed together.  During their time on the Island, Antonio and Sebastian plot against the king’s (Alonso’s) life, assuming that Ferdinand has perished.  Caliban, Trinculo and Stephano develop an alliance that intends to murder Prospero, so that they can take over the island.  Finally, all come together.  Prospero, with urging from Ariel, forgives all and all is calm.  Prospero, a thinly disguised Shakespeare, asks for applause to end his imprisonment.

There is much duality of humanity and the world represented within this play.  Themes of good versus evil, magical vs earthly, land versus sea, honest versus dishonest, free versus imprisoned, sober versus drunk pervade this play.  I loved the infusion of music, poetry and magic within this play.  There is obvious brilliance to the themes and the structure of the play.  I thoroughly enjoyed reading this and found many unique characteristics setting it apart from some of Shakespeare’s other works that I’ve read.  images-2

 

 

Study Questions and Essay Topics from Spark Notes

Discussion Questions from Schmoop

A teacher’s guide to The Tempest from Penguin Books

 

 

5 Debut Novels of 2016 and the New Authors Behind Them

What is better than finding a new author to love?  It opens up a whole new perspective, vantage point, and reads differently from what we are used to.   Here are 5 debut books of 2016 and the authors behind these great new works.

  1.  “Ways to Disappear” by Idra Novey – Published February 9, 2016

idra_photo25746685Residence:  She grew up in a small mining town in Pennsylvania.  She has lived in Chile and Brazil.  She currently lives in Brooklyn, NY.

Work:  She has translated the work of several Brazilian writers; she’s taught at Princeton, Columbia, Fordham, NYU, The Catholic University of Chile, and in the Bard Prison Initiative

Something Interesting:  She met her husband on the subway and immediately knew she would marry him before even speaking to him.

 

 

2.  Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler – Published May 24, 2016

 

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th-4Lives:  Brooklyn, NY.  She moved to NYC after graduating from Kenyon College.

Work:  After waitressing, she obtained a MFA in creative writing from the New School and began work on her novel.

Something Interesting:  She is obsessed with poetry, there are pieces of poetry scattered throughout this novel.

3.  Rich and Pretty by Rumaan Alam – Published June 7, 2016

 

th-1Lives: in New York with his husband and 2 sons

Work: Has worked in magazine publish26890725-1ing and advertising.  Now, he writes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4.  Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi– Published June 7, 2016

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Residence:  Born in Ghana, raised in Huntsville, Alabama.  She and her boyfriend now live in the Bay area.

Work: She is a graduate of the Iowa Writer’s Workshop.  She spent 7 years writing and researching this novel, which was published when she was only 26 years old.  The novel has been nominated for many awards.

 

5.  Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris – Published August 9, 2016

 

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Residence:  She grew up in England but has spent much of her adult life in France.  She is the mother of 5 daughters.

Work:  She has wo29437949rked both in finance and as a teacher.

Something Interesting:  She had suspicions about a friend’s marriage and her imagination is what provided the inspiration for writing this novel.

 

 

 

9 of the Most Popular Book Club Books of 2016

Choosing a book for book club can often be a fun yet laborious process.  I love the choosing of new books, hearing recommendations from others, discussing the pros and cons of reading different books, and trying to look for a book from a different genre than previously read.  Here are some books that have been repeatedly tagged on goodreads as “book club 2016.”  For each, I have attached a link to my review which  contains discussion questions as well as links to excellent reviews published in highly regarded places.  These books will be listed in the order of popularity.  Following the title are 3 words to try to best describe each novel.

 

 

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  1.  The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah –                                  Historical, France, WW2

This book is about the experience of two sisters during World War II in France and the ways in which they aid in the French resistance. It is a moving, emotional book, one in which you are not sure who the narrator is looking back over that time period.

Published Feb 2015

Review & discussion questions for The Nightingale

 

 

 

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2.  Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff – Literary, Marriage, Secrets

This novel is about a marriage. It is told in two parts, the first half from his perspective, the second half from hers. It is brilliantly written and a fascinating read. It was President Obama’s favorite book of 2015.

Published Sept 2015

Full review with discussion questions for Fates and Furies

 

 

 

 

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3.  My Grandmother asked me to tell you she’s Sorry by Fredrik Backman – Fantasy, Humor, Family

This novel, written by Swedish author, Fredrik Backman, is about the relationship between an 8 year girl and her grandmother. The grandmother has created a magical fantastical world which serves as a framework for understanding the people in her life and apartment building after her grandmother dies.

Published June 2015

Full review with discussion questions for My Grandmother asked me to tell you she’s Sorry

 

 

 

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4.  The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood –                                          Dystopian, Sci-Fi, Fantasy

This novel is about a dystopian society in which a young couple is given the option to live inside this compound where they will live in an idealistic community one month and prison on alternating months. It is a hilarious spoof on society as well as a chilling warning.

Published September 2015

Full review and discussion questions for The Heart Goes Last

 

 

 

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5.  Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld – Romance, Chick-lit, Retelling

This is a hilarious and addictive read.  Even though it is 500 pages long, it flies by.  This novel is a modern retelling of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice set in Cincinnati.  It is so fun and light and leaves the reader with all the warm fuzzy excitement that Pride and Prejudice did.

Published April 2016

Full review and discussion questions for Eligible

 

 

 

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6. When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi –                                       Memoir, Medicine, Death

This is the only non-fiction book on this list.  It is the memoir of a  young neurosurgeon facing a terminal cancer diagnosis.  It is deeply philosophical and offers beautiful insights on life and death.

Published January 2016

Full review and discussion questions for When Breath becomes Air

 

 

 

 

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7.  The Girls by Emma Cline – Historical, Coming-of-Age, Thriller

 

A piece of historical fiction, reimagining the draw of Charles Manson’s ranch and the girls who lived there.  It is told from the perspective of adulthood and the contrast between girlhood and adulthood is shocking, amazing and informative.

Published June 2016

Full review and discussion questions for The Girls

 

 

 

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8.  My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout –                        Literary, Family, Poverty

A beautiful piece of writing by Elizabeth Strout that begins with the relationship and conversations between a mother and daughter.  The daughter is in the hospital for complications of appendicitis.  What goes unsaid between them is just as important as what is said.

Published January 2016

Full review and discussion questions for My Name is Lucy Barton

 

 

 

9.   The Underground Railroad by Colson Whithead                       Historical, Slavery, Race

A brilliant insightful novel highlighting the horrors of slavery and some of its aftermath.  It features a virtual underground railroad.

Published in August 2016

Full Review and discussion questions for Underground Railroad

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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